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Snuggle Up With Some Cocoa, It's Time for Winter Anime 2008!

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Welcome to the 2008 Winter Anime Season Preview! I'm your guest star host gia, of a geek by any other name, and I'm going to guide you through the upcoming winter season of anime, featuring 23 shows that will begin in January and February.

This is part one of three, and I'll tell you about ARIA the Origination through Minamike ~okawari~. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu, and let's get going! As always, the shows are in alphabetical order by their original Japanese name. (Psst, part two is here and part three is here.)

 

Title: ARIA the Origination
Studio: HAL Filmworks
Genre: Slice of Life
Airs: TV Tokyo, Mondays at 2am starting January 7th.
Website: http://www.ariacompany.net

Summary: Set in the 24th century on the planet Aqua, Akari is an apprentice gondolier in the city of Neo-Venezia. This sedate-- some might say sedentary --slice-of-life follows her adventures in training to become a full gondolier, known as an "undine." The beautiful art and animation is left mostly unburdened by bothersome things like plots.

Notable:
• This may be the third TV season of the anime, but the manga has been scheduled to end in the April issue of Comic Blade, which goes on sale in February.

• Anyone who really follows the show will be unsurprised to hear that Junichi Sato is directing, since he directed all of the previous TV and OVA adaptations. Aside from ARIA, he's known for creating the manga Pretear as well as directing its anime, as well as directing many episodes of Sailor Moon back in the day. 

Title: Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-
Studio: Artland
Genre: Drama
Airs: Tokyo MX TV, Mondays at 3am starting January 7th.
Website: http://www.gunslingergirl.com

Summary: You only need a summary if you haven't seen the first season, so if you're reading this: shame on you! Gunslinger Girl follows a group of young, generally pre-pubescent girls who have for various reasons been taken and developed into weapons. They are implanted with synthesized muscles and carbon frames, trained in the use of various weaponry, and given a male handler who they are conditioned to obey and even care for. The series focuses on the girls' emotional development as well as their adventures within their unique situation.

Notable:
• Coming a full four years after the first season aired, this continuation is highly anticipated by many fans.

• The series is based on the manga by Yu Aida, who also has a much-expanded role in this second season: he's in charge of series composition, the screenplay, and is a supervisor on the project. The manga is being released in the U.S. by ADV, although there was that unfortunate two-year break between the releases of volumes 3 and 4. 
Title: H20 -Footprints in the Sand-
Studio: ZEXCS
Genre: Romance
Airs: TVQ, Wednesdays at 3:15am starting January 2nd.
Website: http://anime.webnt.jp/h2o

Summary: Afflicted with a mysterious disease, a high school boy named Takuma is a bit on the down-and-out side. He moves out of his parents' home and into his uncle's to attend a new school, where he makes friends with three girls: stubborn and stout-hearted Hayami, gentle Hinata, and the super-cheerful Otoha. Will one of these lovely ladies be able to cure Takuma with their charms? I'm betting "yes."

Notable:
• Takuma will be played by a female seiyuu, Ami Koshimizu, who played Tenma in School Rumble, Nina in Mai-HiME, and Kallen in Code Geass. She'll be playing double-duty this season, since she's also playing Horo in Ookami to Koushinryou.

• The show will be directed by Hideki Tachibana and is his debut as primary director. He's directed episodes of R.O.D. The TV and Honey and Clover.

• The soundtrack should be fun: Junpei Fujita is in charge; he did the theme song arrangement for Haruhi, among other credits. He'll also be doing music for this season's Rosario to Vampire
Title: Hakaba Kitarou (墓場鬼太郎)
Studio: Toei
Genre: Supernatural
Airs: FujiTV, Thursdays at 12:45am starting January 4th.
Website: http://www.toei-anim.co.jp/tv/hakaba

Summary: Shigeru Mizuki's manga Hakaba Kitarou has been adapted into anime TV series and movies a dozen or so times under the more familiar title GeGeGe no Kitarou. It was recently given a new TV series and a major live-action film, resulting in a resurging interest in the original manga. This new series will follow the original manga's stories closely, hence the return to the original manga's title. For those unaware, Hakaba Kitarou (literally "Graveyard Kitarou") follows a young youkai boy named Kitarou who, along with his dad (who is a sentient eyeball), is all that remains of the Ghost tribe. He hopes to find a way to bring peace to both youkai (demons) and humans with the help of an assortment of characters.

Notable:
• Seiyuu Masako Nozawa has virtually made a career out of playing Kitarou, having done so in the original 1968 anime through both of the current ones.

• The anime will feature an ending theme by none other than the otaku queen herself, Shoko-tan, titled "Snow Tears."

• Hakaba Kitarou's background music should feel pretty familiar: Kaoru Wada, whose recognizable music is featured in InuYasha, D.Gray-Man, and every Kitarou series and movie since 1994, is in charge once again. 
Title: Hatenkou Yugi (破天荒遊戯)
Studio: Studio Deen
Genre: Adventure
Airs: KBS Kyoto, Fridays at 2:30am starting January 4th.
Website: http://hatenkouyugi.com

Summary: Some fans may recognize Hatenkou Yugi, whose manga is being published as Dazzle by TOKYOPOP here in North America. A stubborn and energetic young magic user named Rahzel, living with her adopted father, suddenly gets kicked out of the house and made to start a journey. Rahzel quickly attaches herself to the stoic and silent Alzeid, and before long they also acquire a third companion, the clever and flirtatious Baroqueheat. Each member of the party has their own history and goal. How long will they be able to stick together before circumstances force them apart? Or maybe the argumentative trio will just kill each other…

Notable:
• Rahzel will be played by seiyuu Sanae Kobayashi, perhaps best known so far as Allen Walker in D.Gray-Man. She also played Lucy in Elfen Lied and Satsuki in Ichigo 100%.

• The boys have also been cast: Alzeid will be voiced by none other than Takahiro Sakurai, who has played Final Fantasy VII's Cloud Strife in pretty much everything Cloud's ever had a voice in. Baroqueheat will be played by Shinichiro Miki, also known as Initial D's Takumi and Gundam 00's Lockon Stratos.

• Although the manga is fairly light-hearted, expect the dialogue to have some strong moments of drama: the screenplay will be written by Yasuhiro Imagawa, who did scripts for Bartender, Berserk, and for the Fist of the North Star companion Fist of the Blue Sky
Title: Kimi ga Aruji de Shitsuji ga Ore de (君が主で執事が俺で)
Studio: ACGT
Genre: Romantic Comedy/Harem
Airs: Tokyo MX TV, Fridays at 6:30pm starting January 4th.
Website: http://kimiaru.jp

Summary: The title translates to "You're the Master; the Butler is Me," and it's a pretty apt description of the show's plot. The main character is Ren Uesugi, who runs away from home with his sister Mihato. The two wind up serving as butler and maid to three wealthy young sisters, heirs of the Kuonji clan: the haughty eldest sister Shinra, the diminutive but elegant middle sister Miyu, and the cute and sweet youngest sister Yume.

Notable:
• I'm sure you won't be too surprised to hear that this anime is based on an eroge…

• It's the return of Gotoza-sama! Yuko Goto, also known as Haruhi's shy time-traveller Mikuru, is playing Miyu.

• Meanwhile Ren is played by Tomokazu Seki, who is used to put-upon men in worlds full of crazy women: he played Kanon's Jun and Sakura's big brother Touya in Card Captor Sakura
Title: MAJOR
Studio: Synergy SP
Genre: Sports
Airs: NHK, Saturdays at 6pm starting January 5th.
Website: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/anime/major

Summary: This is actually the fourth season of the baseball anime; the first aired in 2004, the second in 2005, and the third in 2007. The series follows Goro Honda, a little league pitcher, his dad Shigeharu, a Major league batter, and Momoko Hoshino, Goro's teacher and a love interest for Shigeharu. This fourth season will feature the beginning of Goro's life as an adult-- and his start in the minor leagues.

Notable:
• This will be the first season of the anime that is not directed by Kenichi Kasai. Instead, relative newcomer Riki Fukushima-- whose past credits include little more than storyboarding an episode of Robonimal Panda-Z --will helm.

• The fourth season will also switch out character designer Katsu Oshiro in favor of Kenichi Ohnuki, who did the Harukanaru Toki no Naka de OVA designs and directed the character animation for Gundam Seed and Gundam 00
Title: Minamike ~okawari~ (みなみけ~おかわり~)
Studio: Asread
Genre: Comedy
Airs: TV Tokyo Kei, Sundays at 1:30am starting January 6th.
Website: http://www.starchild.co.jp/special/minami-ke/2/index.html

Summary: Once again: shame on you if you need to read the summary! Minamike is a slice-of-life about the three orphaned Minami sisters: the eldest, angelic Haruka; the middle, the energetic and bizarre Kana; and the youngest, practical and aggressive Chiaki. A season of Minamike aired this fall to pretty positive reviews, but Minamike ~okawari~ is not a continuation of the same series. Doumu did the first series; this is Asread's take on the Minami clan.

Notable:
• Although this version is being created by a different production company-- and therefore has a pretty different look --the three girls will be voiced by the same seiyuu: Rina Satou (Negima!?'s Negi) as Haruka, Marina Inoue (Sayonara Zetusbou Sensei's even-part girl Chiri Kitsu) as Kana, and Minori Chihara (Haruhi's Yuki) as Chiaki.

• Naoto Hosoda, who directed Shuffle! And Shuffle! Memories, will direct this iteration. 

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